Andy Murray arrived at the Australian Open fully prepared to become a father before becoming champion.
Murray left his pregnant wife in Britain ahead of the start of the tournament, promising to fly home at any time if needed.
However, the 28-year-old Murray has now given himself a chance of becoming a champion first following his five-set win over Milos Raonic on Friday to reach the final for the fifth time.
His 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2 victory sets up a final against five-time champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s title match.
Murray is 0-4 in finals at Melbourne Park. Djokovic has played in five Australian Open finals, winning each one.
“Five finals is a great achievement. You can’t take that away from me,” Murray said. “So I have to be proud of that achievement.
“Doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. What matters is what happens Sunday.”
Three of Djokovic’s wins in Australia have come in finals against his old friend Murray, every odd-numbered year since 2011.
“He loves playing on this court, we’ve played a bunch of times here,” Murray said. “Hopefully it can be a different result.”
Murray has had a lot on his mind this time. His wife, Kim, is expecting their first baby next month. His father-in-law, Nigel Sears, was in Melbourne as coach for Ana Ivanovic and had to be rushed to a hospital by ambulance during a match on Rod Laver Arena, which happened to coincide with Murray’s third-round match on an adjacent arena.
Sears spent a night in a hospital, but was considered well enough to return home. While his father-in-law was in the hospital, Murray at times thought his departure from Australia might be earlier than expected.
He stayed, and won his next two matches in straight sets, shaking out some of the emotions.
He had more to contend with against Raonic, who was playing in the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time, and aiming to be the first Canadian man to reach the final of a major.
In an unusual start, the first seven points of the match went against serve, with Raonic breaking at love and then facing triple break point before holding for a 2-0 lead. It was Raonic’s only service break of the match, with Murray fending off six other break-point chances.
Raonic was hampered by an adductor problem in his upper right leg from late in the third set. He needed a medical timeout, and in the fourth set had a massage from the trainer.
“I couldn’t push off, I couldn’t get up to serve, and I couldn’t change direction,” Raonic said. “Probably the most heartbroken I’ve felt on court.”
After having his serve broken to open the fifth set, Raonic walked back to his chair and angrily smashed his racket on the hard-court surface twice, breaking it.
“I guess that was sort of just the whole frustration of everything sort of getting out,” said Raonic, who tends not to be demonstrative on court.
Murray went on a run of winning 20 of 25 points to go ahead, 4-0, and all but clinch the four-hour match, and a spot in a ninth Grand Slam final.
Brother Jamie is in the doubles final with Bruno Soares against Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek on Saturday, giving the Murray siblings the distinction of being the first brothers to appear in the singles and doubles finals at the same major in the Open era. The men’s doubles decider follows the women’s final between six-time champion Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.
Williams is one match away from tying Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.
The only obstacle for No. 1-ranked Williams is Kerber, a 28-year-old German who is seeking Graf’s advice on how to win the biggest match of her life.
“Steffi, write me please,” Kerber said jokingly in an on-court interview after advancing to the first Grand Slam final of her career.
Graf did just that, in a text message, the No. 7-seeded Kerber said Friday.
“She told me, ‘Congrats,’ and she is happy for me, and good luck in the finals.”
Kerber has joked that it’s her national duty to protect the record of Graf, the last German to win the Australian Open, in 1994.
Kerber has played Williams six times before, and beaten her once, in 2012, which gives her confidence.
“She is going out there to try to win again another Grand Slam, making history,” Kerber said. She expects to be nervous but says the real pressure is on Williams. “I’m feeling good. I’m healthy. I’m fit. I will try to win against her. That’s for sure.”
But Williams is trying not to think too much about matching Graf’s 22 career titles.
“I definitely block it out. I was one off last year too. If I don’t win on Saturday, I’ll still be one off,” Williams said.